An insight into tropical botany with Keynsham Primary school

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Meeting Year 2, ‘Sapphire’ class at St Keyna’s primary school where I was asked several tricky questions

As part of my job I give talks to students or colleagues on aspects of my research and botany. Generally the less scientifically literate the audience the better and more insightful the questions. For this reason I was a little nervous and excited at meeting two classes at the St Keyna Primary School in Keynsham near Bath. I had been invited by my old friend Larissa Roberts who works at the school. After over 20 years working for a major museum I was also very honoured to be inaugurating their natural history museum! It might seem a poor use of resources for scientists to go and meet schoolchildren half way across the country and we struggled to find any resources to support for my visit. For me though it is very important. Botany is rarely taught in UK schools, there is no university degree in Botany in the UK anymore (imagine if that was the case for zoology or paleontology) and so the routes for recruiting young enthusiastic people from a variety of backgrounds into botany are somewhat limited. If visits such as mine inspire just one pupil to consider a career in botany then it would have a tremendous impact on our discipline.

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Me, inaugurating the St Keyna Natural History Museum. A great collection of tarantula moults, birds nests and rocks! I should really have tucked my shirt in.

Some of the questions were quite a challenge. Mainly because although I should have I had not thought about them before. I was almost thrown by questions such as, ‘what is the rarest plant that you have collected?’, ‘what is the oldest plant that you have collected?’ and ‘how many new species have you discovered?’. On the basis of my answers I am not sure how well I would fair in a job interview. I was very pleasantly surprised to meet so many children with a spontaneous enthusiasm and interest in natural history and plants! I was also very impressed with how friendly and polite the children (and staff) were and of how well supported learning seemed to be at St Keyna’s. So all in all a very positive experience that I would gladly repeat.

2 thoughts on “An insight into tropical botany with Keynsham Primary school”

  1. Hi Alex,

    Great post! It may be worth chatting to Laura or Mimi to see if you could reblog that on Kew’s website.

    Best, Bente

    P.S. By the way how are you getting on with setting up an Americas Team Twitter account?

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